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Scott Cooper is still a fairly new director having only 4 films under the radar since he started in 2009. His 1st film “Crazy Heart” (earned Jeff Bridges an Oscar), the gritty “Out of the Furnace”

(with Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson) and “Black Mass” (starring Johnny Depp as gangster Whitey Bulger) Cooper now gives us a very well done American western.

“Hostiles” is fairly straight forward. Cooper’s handling of the film is very remarkable, the experience, approach and the over all sense give it a gritty, intense personal view set during the end of the U.S. western expansion of the late 1800s.

Bale owns his role as U.S. Army Captain Joe Blocker. He presents a viable case, but in the end is ordered to escort an imprisoned Native American chief and his family from New Mexico back to their native tribal land in Montana. The Cheyenne leader and Cavalry leader are enemies. With one last mission before his mandatory retirement, Blocker must deal with both his hatred for his prisoners and his desire to complete the mission successfully.

Early on they come across a woman whose husband and children have just been killed by members of a Comanche war party. Rosalie Quaid (“Gone Girl”‘s Rosamund Pike). The grieving Quaid joins Blocker and his troops. The traumatic days that follow will be both physically and mentally grueling for everyone involved.

“Hostiles” is well paced, giving pause to flesh out the script, while shadowing the perils of living in this time, with your head on a swivel, always looking over your shoulder. As Blocker states in one scene “We’re all prisoners out here.”

Bale’s famous military hero whose merciless approach to winning the war is no longer wanted is award-worthy. Bale and Pike both excel in their displays of emotional depth and they both have a couple scenes to really bring out the tears and make your heart race.

The supporting cast includes Wes Studi as Chief Yellow Hawk, Ben Foster and Timothee Chalamet. The clothing and camera work are great mirroring the divine nature of the film, are the standout technical elements.

Cooper handles all of this material with care, including a stunning final scene. The unexpected twist, like “Hostiles” as a whole, provides a fresh, alternative perspective to what, in less creative hands, would have been a very traditional movie experience.

Streaming on VidAngel

I give it an A+

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